10 November 2005

Light the Fire

A true friend reminded me tonight that people have no reason to fight for a cause if they haven't experienced the accompanying injustice. If you look around the room and you see that racial minorities are missing or silenced, that's the fire lit under ya. If you look around the room and you see that women are missing or silenced, that's another fire. We will see different discrepancies, thank God. The problem comes when we automatically prioritize our observations over others'. In other words, if I was a feminist trying to work up some passion for the cause, it would be the ultimate activist party fowl to expect others to drop their passion for minority involvement.

And so it is with the Church.

Some people here have no fire under them about the way we worship. Some came to the tradition after years of searching and found comfort and peace in the rituals. Some have only known this style of worship and everything else feels downright sacriligious. Some just go along their merry way whistling "All Glory Laud and Honor" and haven't seen any reason for something to change.

This is not me.

There is a fire lit under me, and somebody keeps dumping kerosene on it. This worship feels stale to all my friends and family who aren't self-identified Episcopalians. My friends have no good reason to walk in on a chapel service and experience something. In Anglican Tradition on Monday, we talked about defining ourselves historically as "not X, not Y" rather than as "clearly Z" and this leaving us with an identity that changes as the culture changes. We know we're not "fundamentalist," we're not "evangelical," and we certainly don't "get saved." Beyond this, things seem open for discussion. Our boundaries are negative, rather than positive. People join up because they got burned by the groups we have defined ourselves against. We're the Other Team.

I daresay our Church will die with its aging baby boomers if we don't confront:

- worship that engages the unchurched
- community that defines itself positively rather than negatively

And I daresay I'm not going down with the ship.

Real Presence: The presence of Christ in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. THe 1991 statement of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission notes, "The elements are not mere signs; Christ's body and blood become really present and are really given. But they are really present and given in order that, receiving them, believers may be united in communion with Christ the Lord." A classic Anglican statement attributed to John Donne (or to Queen Elizabeth I) and included in The Hymnal 1982 (Hymn 322) is "He was the Word that spake it, he took the bread and brake it, and what the Word did made, I do believe and take it." In Eucharistic Prayer A of Rite 2, the celebrant prays the God the Father will sanctify the gifts of bread and wine "by your Holy Spirit to be for your people the Body and Blood of your Son, the holy food and drink of new and unending life in him" (BCP p 363). The Catechism notes that the inward and spiritual grace in the eucharist is "the Body and Blood of Christ given to his people and received by faith" (BCP 859). Belief in the real presence does not imply a claim to know how Christ is present in the eucharistic elements. Belief in the real presence does not imply belief that the consecrated eucharistic elements cease to be bread and wine.


Blogger CJA said...

I've been working on this "positive identification" thing since monday, because I agree whole-heartedly. We do need to develop worship that engages the unchurched (as well as the churched, there are plenty of people in plenty of churches that merely put up with liturgy). We do need to come up with positive ways of talking about ourselves. I'm convinced that, done sensitively, our liturgical tradition contains a core that can inspire, enliven, and engage both unchurched and churched people. I don't think the solution is to copy the megachurch down the street; how does that serve to positively identify the Anglican charism? We have an awful lot of bad liturgy being done, and that needs to change.

7:07 AM  
Blogger Ann said...

Even those of us who are "ancient" don't like stale liturgy - it is worse than stale wafers left too long in the ciborium.

7:36 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

(apologies for the length--you gave me a lot to chew on...)

I've been lurking on this blog for a few weeks, but I'd like to pipe in on this thread. I think a fresh voice from somebody who was recently unchurched could provide a little insight to this thread. (And BTW, I love your posts--one of the reasons I'm feeling so certain that I've made the right choice in becoming an episcopalian).

1st--I LOVE the liturgy. There's a part of me that has come to crave that period of "god time" on sunday morning. Maybe I'm a wierdo, but it helps me feel like I'm really "in church", and that God is "really present". I can certainly see how it could go stale, but that may have more to do with the congregation in question losing touch with what chris called the "core" of the tradition than any innate fault of the liturgy.

I didn't choose to go to the megachurch. Going to a place that is a combination of wal-mart and a rock concert does not generally lead to a particularly spiritual mood, at least for me. That's also true for a lot of people who are looking for a "real church", but do not feel they can return to the faith of their your youth. Which leads me to point 2...

2: You go to school in Berkeley. I don't know whether you're from a coast or not, but I can still preserve my relative anonymity by admitting that I hail from one of the reddest states in the union.

I am an outspoken feminist gay-friendly flaming liberal geek, as is my husband. This limits the number of churches we can enter on sunday morning, without leaving an hour later in a smoking rage over a sermon so "un-Christian" in our estimation as to be blasphemous.

Yes, we could go to the unitarian church down the way (and did, for a while) but to me, it seemed so nondogmatic it was almost nonreligious. I missed a statement of beliefs, a concise declaration that we believe X tradition and this is why we believe it.

Here is your positive identification, at least as I see it. You are something unique--at least in this neck of the woods. You are a mainline Christian denomination that engages in a full, real Christian life, even following through the full implications of loving your gay, female, liberal, and intellectual neighbors as yourselves. As long as you are willing to agree to the creed, you're into the communion with full rights, responsibilities, and opportunities for service. That's something very few churches can honestly say these days.

While I know those conversations aren't over yet, at least you're having the debate,and having it in(mostly) a prayerful, sincere manner. That's a pretty darned positive identification, and it's why I am looking forward to being received into the Episcopal Church soon. So take heart--we new people are down here in the pews, we are not alone, and we will be prepared to carry the torch when it is passed to us by our boomer forebears. :-)

8:18 PM  
Blogger Zinnhead said...

i cherish your comments. it seems to be a very narrow path i'm navigating - burned evangelicals who have come with joy to the episcopal liturgy and those who have been raised episcopalian -- both seem jarred by my desire to see what else we can do. the accusations are flying! some say i want to destroy who we are as Anglicans, or i want to become a conservative evangelical mega-church, etc. It is more complicated than that, but defenses are up. What you said is really important, and reminds me how subtle my challenges are and how important to be as articulate as possible in my questioning. See you in the blogosphere!

8:01 AM  
Blogger Zinnhead said...

by the way, I'm from a VERY red state as well, enjoying a temporary breather in berkeley.

8:01 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

"burned evangelicals who have come with joy to the episcopal liturgy and those who have been raised episcopalian -- both seem jarred by my desire to see what else we can do."

Well, it's not like the liturgy has come down intact from the time of Henry VIII ("Be bonair and buxom in bed and at board," anybody?). Things have and do change with the times, while still keeping to a basic core. While the basic flow of liturgy is similar between my current high-church downtown parish and the little Norman Rockwell country chapel where we go when we visit the in-laws (and where DH and I were married), Father Barney out in the country runs a very different service than the rectors at our church.

This isn't a bad thing. You can keep the importance of the sacraments and scripture while opening the doors to new traditions within the old liturgical framework. Our church, for instance, runs everything from an old school "smells and bells" Rite 1 extravaganza to a contemporary service (that still works within the liturgical framework) to a sunday evening compline prayer service that I haven't attended but sounds wonderfully contemplative.

The point is that there's no one true way. The church has done an admirable way of allowing remarkable intellectual diversity within an overarching framework of a few universally accepted doctrines.

I see no reason why there couldn't be room for a similar flexibility in worship. As long as the core parts of the liturgy are still there, you can and should be flexible enough to meet the liturgical wants and needs of your community.

1:23 PM  
Blogger Charles Borromeo said...

To those who say that they enjoy traditional liturgies ... I call their liturgies novel, modernistic, and even radically different from the foundations laid by Christ and the Apostles.

I laugh at those who like the traditional hymns of 500 years ago. They are novel! I perfer the hymns of founded 1,800 years ago and the Traditional Latin Mass, which was organically developed from third century.

You should come to a Traditional Latin Mass sometime. Traditio.com has a listing, as does Una Voce and FSSP.org.

You will find the liturgy refreshingly real.

7:10 AM  

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